Saint Petersburg, Russia
Easily exhausted by visa requirements, I elected to get my first taste of Russia through this lovely little loophole: A 72-hour visa waiver valid only for foreigners entering the port of Saint Petersburg on a ship.
Where does one find a passenger ship in the 21st century?
Our group of three hooked up with a depressing booze cruise coming into Tallinn from Riga on its way around the Baltic Sea, next stop Saint Petersburg. Aside from my discovering that you can now buy jack and coke in a can, it was a really good way to travel. We had a decent night’s sleep three decks below the thumping 80’s music from the dance floor. And in the morning, we got to see a little of the “other” Saint Petersburg as we sailed through the loading docks and industrial zones around the harbor.
Delightfully, they have maintained the giant metallic “LENINGRAD” sign positioned at the entrance to the harbor. If you’re reading this now you probably know: Leningrad (Lenin City) was the Soviet name for Saint Petersburg, where so many of the key events of the Russian Revolution unfolded.
Another added bonus is that all ship routes pass along the south shore of Kronstadt, where Trotsky’s army crossed the frozen gulf to quell an anti-Bolshevik uprising in 1921.
It’s possible to reach Kronstadt from Saint Petersburg if you want to truly visit (the Naval Cathedral probably deserves to be seen up close, along with the historic forts on the island). But with less than 72 hours in the city, we were lucky to have a fly-by tour of the port, the islands, and the Gulf of Finland on a beautiful sunny summer morning.